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Human Biological and Cultural Evoluton


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Covers the relevance of biological factors to culture and our place in the taxonomic scheme of things

Covers the relevance of biological factors to culture and our place in the taxonomic scheme of things

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  • 1. Human Biological and Cultural Evolution Their Relevance to Culture
  • 2. Culture in Evolutionary Perspective
    • To understand culture, we need to:
    • (1) Know our biological capacity for culture
    • (2) How we fit into the animal kingdom
    • (3) How we came to be what we are
  • 3. Our Capacity For Culture: Our Biological Roots
    • (1) Our language ability
    • (2) Our ability to make and use tools
    • (3) Our bipedalism—ability to stand and walk on two feet
    • If the “science of humankind” is to be taken seriously we need to know our own anatomy
  • 4. First Things First: Taxonomy
    • Definition: Hierarchical, systematic classification of all lifeforms.
    • The classification system starts with the broadest or most general categories : first, the kingdom, then the phylum, then the class, then the order.
    • The system ends up with specific categories: the genus, the species, the variety.
    • Each category, whether broad or specific, is known as a taxon (plural, taxa)
  • 5. Taxonomy: Binomial Nomenclature
    • Every species has at least two names
    • We humans belong to the:
    • Genus: Homo
    • Species: sapiens
    • This is an example of binomial (that is, pertaining to two names)
    • nomenclature (that is, a system of names)
    • Sometimes we have a third name for variety: for us, that would be sapiens for some purposes
  • 6. Stylistic Convention of Binomial Nomenclature
    • We italicize all names of a given species
    • Capitalize the genus
    • Lowercase the species and variety
    • Example: Homo (sapiens) sapiens
    • For broader taxa, families, orders, and phyla, for example, the term is capitalized
    • Thus we belong to the order Primata.
  • 7. Taxonomy: The General Taxa
    • This is the taxonomy of ourselves:
    • Kingdom: Animalia (ingests food, moves)
    • Phylum: Chordata (has spinal cord)
    • Subphylum: Vertebrata (has segmented protective bone or cartilage that protects the spinal cord)
    • Class: Mammalia (warm blooded, has hair, female secretes milk)
    • Order: Primata: (larger brain, stereoscopic [depth] vision, flexible digits, complex sociality
    • Suborder: Anthropoidea (monkey, apes, humans)
  • 8. Taxonomy of Humans and their Cousins
    • Until recently, all animals were categorized by their phenotype or visible characteristics
    • DNA analysis has given a different perspective
    • For example, our genome (total genetic composition) is closer to the chimps’ genome than to the gorillas’ and the orangutans’
    • So a new typology has been adopted for humans and their closest relatives
  • 9. Hominid Taxonomy
    • The chart above is one of the new taxonomies:
    • Hominids apply to all humans and African apes
    • Alternative scheme applies “ homininae ” to chimps, bonobos, and gorillas
    • Hominins apply to Homo sapiens and all extinct ancestors: Australopithecus, Homo habilis, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and H. neanderthalensis
  • 10. Order Primata
    • Includes prosimians (tarsier, upper left), old world monkeys (mangabey, lower left), other monkeys, aapes, and humans
    • Some of the traits of primates are
    • Stereoscopic vision; the eyes of both the tarsier (a prosimian) and the mangabey (an old world monkey are angled forward, so they can perceive depth
    • Flexible hands and fingers both of these can grasp objects
    • They are both sociable and occur in groups
  • 11. Suborder Anthropoidea
    • Includes monkeys, apes, and humans
    • Both the rhesus macaque (top) and the chimpanzee are humanlike
    • Compared to prosimians, both have larger brains
    • Both live in groups with complex social interactions
    • Both groom and have dominance hierarchies
    • Where they part: most monkeys have tails; all apes have none
  • 12. Superfamily Hominoidea
    • Both orangutans (top) and gorillas (bottom) have larger cranial capacities than monkeys
    • Both lack tails
    • Both are semi-bipedal; monkeys are quadrupedal
    • Apes engage in suspensory behavior (suspend themselves below tree branches); monkeys rarely do
  • 13. Superfamily Homininae
    • Comprises chimpanzees, bonobos
    • Larger cranial capacity than other hominoids
    • Have ability to make and use tools
    • Have complex social relations, ranging from grooming to dominance hierarchies (top)
    • Bonobos: use sex to ease tension and recruit new females into the troop (below)